February 25, 2019

(NEW YORK) –The Airline Passenger Experience Association (APEX) revealed today what it has been publicly recommending for in-flight cameras since 2015: install them to better serve future passengers. While not in use by airlines today, APEX believes that in-flight cameras will enable improved passenger service in the future with explicit customer permission.

“Since the advent of the smartphone a decade ago, airlines realized that they need to be thinking ahead to serve the future travel experience,” APEX CEO Dr. Joe Leader stated. “The systems selected years ago are now on aircraft today and in many cases will be on aircraft for the next decade. With explicit customer permission, airlines will be able to provide better service and safety to their passengers using new technology.”

At Future Travel Experience (FTE) Global in 2015, Dr. Leader presented his first industry address on the subject demonstrating how airlines could think ahead providing service with customer permission. That message has been repeated at airline events worldwide with an explicit caution: airlines must only ever use cameras with advance explicit passenger permission each time.

Today, airline passengers are typically tracked outside the aircraft dozens of times on a typical journey through stores, security, roadways, and airports by cameras without any permission. In contrast, airlines only want to use cameras in the future with permission when technology has advanced to offer personalized service improvements that passenger’s desire. For example, passengers are now able to board international airplanes around the world with their face serving as their identification. Passengers desiring to use traditional boarding passes and identification are always afforded that opportunity.

  • Future Communication – The technology exists for passengers to communicate to one another via video chat using seat-back screens mirroring the technology used for Apple FaceTime, Facebook Messenger, Google Duo, and Amazon Alexa. Communicating by voice alone typically triggers customers to speak more loudly in a noisy aircraft environment. Communication via screen provides a visual aid to customers that prefer less high-volume communication. In the future, directional listening via artificial intelligence like that used by Facebook Portal will augment the ability for passengers to communicate without disturbing fellow passengers. 
  • Safety – With explicit permission from the passenger and future artificial intelligence advances, passengers will be able to have their wellness better monitored in flight. Cameras can visually detect signs of dehydration, irregular pulse, or illness prior to a passenger being aware of issue.
  • Gaming, Entertainment, Food, and Beverage – With customer permission, cameras in aircraft seat-back systems will have the future ability to act like Microsoft Kinect so that passengers may play games without hitting a seat-back screen. Eye movements and hand movements are much more conducive to passenger game and entertainment selections without inadvertently disturbing another passenger. Eye movements can also choose movie selections, TV, food, and beverages. With permission and future artificial intelligence, in-flight systems will be able to better learn preference just as Netflix learns from viewing habits.
  • Service – Passengers today have to press a call button or wait for service. With explicit permission from the customer and artificial intelligence in the future, cameras operating in-seat will be able to intelligently watch for visual clues for needed service. Today, airlines train their flight attendants to watch for visual cues for needed service during flight. Technology will be able to further advance customer service as desired. 
  • Security – Aircraft manufacturers and security companies have offered cameras to airlines that watch passengers for safety reasons in certain areas of the aircraft. Dwell time at the front of an aircraft and malicious intent may be monitored via overhead cameras without customer permission. In the future, airlines should consider camera use when a passenger has been flagged as an on-board security risk. With law enforcement permission, in-flight cameras may in the future be able to reduce human trafficking, violence against fellow passengers, and sexual assault instances on aircraft.
  • Hacking Concerns Misplaced – Cameras on aircraft are in one of the most secure environments possible with limited connectivity that is constantly monitored by outside companies. In contrast, the greatest risk to airline passenger privacy breaches come from their own smartphones, tablets, cameras, computers, and smart devices used in private settings. Cameras in seat-back systems are for use in a shared public aircraft area on a highly-secured network. As we have seen in the media, passengers are consistently filming one another and flight crews without permission as an aircraft serves as a public space. Cameras under explicit permission controls protected by airlines and their connectivity companies are exponentially more secure.
  • Airlines Setting a Positive Industry Example – APEX has served the airline industry advancing passenger experience for the past 40 years with every major airline and supplier in the world. At APEX events discussing artificial intelligence and future use of cameras, there has been a consistent point of discussion: airline passengers are the ones that own their data. With biometric data, APEX stands firmly with its airline and supplier industry for permission and data protection as paramount customer rights. New technologies should only be leveraged in service to passengers with specific, new customer benefits in exchange for explicit permission.

Dr. Leader will be proactively addressing the issue of cameras on aircraft at the keynote opening of Aviation Festival Asia in Singapore this week and in greater detail at APEX Asia in Shanghai on Tuesday 12 March.

APEX hosts multiple industry gatherings around the world. Click here for a list of all upcoming events. For more information about APEX, please visit apex.aero, sign up for the APEX Daily Experience e-newsletter, or follow APEX on TwitterFacebook and LinkedIn.


About The Airline Passenger Experience Association (APEX) 

APEX encompasses a network of businesses and professionals that are committed to providing a world-class airline experience for passengers around the globe. As a non-profit, APEX reinvests all of its resources to better serve its members. Every day, APEX members evaluate the passenger experience through an influential community and are improving every aspect of the airline experience: from designing, building and installing seating, entertainment and communications systems on commercial aircraft, to airport lounges and inflight dining. For more than four decades, APEX has worked to strengthen the industry and enable business opportunities through education, innovation, networking and recognition.